Kenneth Kieser: Duck blind etiquette is important
I have spent a fair portion of my life in duck and goose blinds. During these prized hours I have met the best of hunters, and sometimes hunters best to forget.
There is an unwritten list of rules that applies to being a horrible hunting partner. Here are several:
The Expert Shooter: Good calling and well-set decoys bring ducks and geese in close enough for a shot. Problem is, hunters often shoot at the same bird. There is no explanation except this particular poor goose or duck might be closer to the blind, maybe by only a foot or two.
This is where the expert shooter becomes a nuisance. He might make a quiet suggestion on how his shot dropped that bird, or the air may be filled with his shouts of victory: “I got it; did you see that shot?”
Maybe the expert did shoot the fowl or maybe not. This actually is almost forgivable when only done once. Yet, some expert shooters claim a bird after every flock has been called in and shot. Ethical hunters hate this.
Many years ago, I watched hunters in Canada let their “expert” take credit for every downed duck, even some they shot. Soon the expert’s daily limit was filled and his gun cased. Then the remaining hunters had an enjoyable hunt while he watched. Note: Not taking credit for all ducks or geese you shoot is illegal in some states.
Top Gun Hunters: Want to make ethical hunters angry? Jump up and start shooting before everyone has a chance, usually a young hunter with old hunters. Ideally, everyone rises at once and shoots. I have watched “top gun” hunters empty their gun while everyone is still trying to stand up.
Fast shooting is dangerous and not the best way to kill waterfowl. Picking out a specific duck or goose and dropping it is best, instead of trying to shoot every bird in the sky or worse, shooting into the flock to see what will drop – a great way to wound waterfowl.
This is a good place to mention shooting wounded fowl on the water. A retriever is generally ready to swim after wounded ducks or geese. The dog’s owner often wades out to guide the dog to a swimming, wounded bird.
I once watched in horror when a “top gunner” jumped up and shot at his swimming duck, apparently not thinking before touching the trigger. He killed the Labrador retriever and barely missed its owner.
A Labrador or golden retriever is part of the owner’s family. Mine are! I will never forget watching that weeping man cradling his dog tightly against his chest and carrying it in his arms while wading back to the blind.
Hunters in the blind told the slob hunter exactly what we thought of him while advising a quick exit. He immediately packed up and left, probably saving his own life from the dog’s owner.
Normally the guide or dog owner in the water finishes off the wounded bird when necessary. Most dogs swim fast enough to catch the wounded fowl, but this is not always possible. Never shoot when there is a dog or man in the water.
The Braggart: Few hunters want to hear about how they were outshot on any given day. I am not including good-natured ribbing.
I hunted with some close friends several years ago and could not touch a feather. Then a greenhead mallard literally hovered above my end of the blind and I emptied my shotgun, missing every time. I started grinding my teeth while my buddies quietly snickered in the background. One handed me a box of shotgun shells in case I decided to shoot any more that day.
I had spent many years hunting with this group and the box of shotgun shells was funny – and, yes, I laughed. Besides, they would have moments like that on future hunts and I might have a good shooting day, it happens on rare occasions. That is just buddies rubbing it in, a part of waterfowl hunting. To this day we laugh about that hovering duck and the box of shotgun shells.
Braggart’s claims have nothing to do with good-natured ribbing. This type of irritating blind mate is quick to point out how many ducks they shot and how many you didn’t, like they are keeping score.
They may talk about their financial successes, how their wife was the Corn Cob Queen in Nebraska or how impressive their whatever is, topics I have no interest in. I have heard these bragging sessions last the entire four- or five-hour hunting session – generally the last time we hunted with that person.
Tour Guide: Have you ever taken a friend to your favorite hunting spot only to find they returned with other hunters later without your knowledge? Then these hunters return with others and suddenly your hunting spot is no longer productive due to the volume of hunters frequenting the place.
This happened to us on a small oxbow formed by the Missouri River years ago. We had permission to walk over a farmer’s land to access our spot until the army of hunters showed up. The irate farmer told us to never go there again after he found where some of the slob hunters had actually stomped through his soybean field. To add insult to injury, they had left trash behind.
We lost a good hunting spot and the guy I originally took hunting lost a good friend – me. This is common in all types of hunting so beware.
There are unwritten rules of etiquette in all types of hunting. There may never be a book listing these rules, but you might find their definition: common sense.
Have a safe, productive hunting season!
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.